DTLA - When it comes to transformative projects, it will be hard for Downtown Los Angeles to top 2017. After all, last year saw the opening of the $1.2 billion Wilshire Grand Center, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Additionally, the community welcomed its largest recreation space in L.A. State Historic Park, several new hotels and approximately a dozen housing developments.
Downtown may not have quite as many mega-projects coming online this year, but that’s not to say the roster is thin. In fact, the development pipeline is packed, and in the next 12 months the community will see the opening of hundreds of housing units, the arrival of at least three hotels, and a cascade of creative office space.
In the following pages, we run down 18 development highlights of 2018, some of which will debut, and others that will advance. As always, consider it just a start — there’s a lot more to come.
Opening This Year
At Mateo: Developer Blatteis and Schnur’s transformation of a series of warehouses in the Arts District is one of the most anticipated projects in Downtown Los Angeles, as well as one of the most delayed. At this time last year the team expected an opening by March 1. That didn’t happen, of course, and anticipation for the mixed-use complex continues to build. Designed by Edge Architecture, the $90 million At Mateo will offer a series of gleaming brick and glass structures with 50,000 square feet of office space, 130,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, and a 540-space parking structure for tenants and customers. Meal replacement drink company Soylent has inked a deal to move its headquarters to At Mateo. Once the project opens, the quickly changing Arts District will become even busier and more crowded.
Circa: Work on the twin-tower mega-project continues, with the focus on the interior layouts and finishes after the “topping out” of the buildings in June. The complex across from the Convention Center, from a partnership led by Jamison Services and Hankey Investments, sits on a seven-story podium with resident amenities, parking and roughly 48,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The dual 35-story towers will hold 648 residential units, mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as a handful of penthouses, with rents ranging from $3,000 to a staggering $20,000 per month. The facade includes 17,000 square feet of LED signs, which will light up South Park. Move-ins at the $500 million complex are expected early in the year.
Ford Factory Building: Another entrant on the list of most anticipated projects of 2018 is developer Shorenstein Properties’ renovation of the hulking former Ford Factory complex at Seventh Street and Santa Fe Avenue. The excitement builds partly from the transformation, but also for the tenant: Warner Music Group has a 13-year lease on the space, and will move staff from its current offices in Burbank to the 254,000-square-foot building at 777 S. Santa Fe Ave., likely in the summer. Construction crews are currently building out the offices ahead of WMG’s arrival. Since the announcement of the deal in October 2016, the area has become a destination for youth-skewing and tech businesses. Expect the opening to inject even more energy into the neighborhood, and to draw additional restaurants, bars and other service businesses.
Hotel Figueroa: The iconic hotel at 939 S. Figueroa St. closed in late 2015 after being purchased for $65 million. An extensive transformation of the 1926 edifice began, and a series of anticipated opening dates have been pushed back. Now the work by Green Oak Real Estate and Urban Lifestyle Hotels appears to be nearly complete, and the hotel’s website lists room availability starting on Feb. 7 at $369 a night (rates jump to $819 for the following week’s NBA All-Star weekend). The 13-story building with the three massive ad-boasting panels will have 268 guest rooms, including a selection of “signature suites” with monikers such as the Casablanca, the Mirador and the El Rey. Chef Casey Lane is overseeing a menu rooted in Basque cuisine. The project includes several bars, a rooftop garden, a fitness center and a pool. Its arrival will add more street life to the corridor connecting L.A. Live and the Financial District.
La Plaza Cultura Village: Developer Trammel Crow Company is deep in construction on the project just north of El Pueblo and Olvera Street. The development is a partnership with the County of L.A. A paseo will wind between two structures that have a combined 43,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and 355 apartments (20% will be designated as low-income housing). In addition to restaurants and shops, La Plaza Cultura Village will have arts and historical spaces to educate visitors on the city’s birthplace. An opening is expected toward the end of the year.
MyFigueroa: While many Downtown stakeholders cheered the start of construction on the bicycle/road diet project, delays throughout 2017 left a lot of people frustrated. The city Department of Transportation is in charge of the project that is cutting driving lanes in favor of wider sidewalks, new bike lanes and transit platforms along the Figueroa Corridor and a stretch of 11th Street in South Park. Part of the delay was due to the discovery of underground utility lines, and DOT now anticipates wrapping the project in the spring. Local business owners have been complaining about the enduring construction, but the project should improve pedestrian and bike connectivity in a rapidly growing segment of Downtown.
NoMad Hotel: The Sydell Group finished a big Downtown redevelopment last year, turning the 1924 Commercial Exchange Building into the 226-room Freehand Hotel. The developer will build on that in the Financial District, as the 12-story, 1923 Giannini Place emerges as the 241-room NoMad Hotel. Check-ins begin Jan. 20 at the establishment at 649 S. Olive St. that, in a previous life, was the headquarters of the Bank of Italy (a precursor to Bank of America). As with New York City’s NoMad, the hotel will feature a wide food and drink program, including a mezzanine-level restaurant, a lobby bar and a cafe. There will also be a rooftop pool deck with a bar. The NoMad could emerge as the most buzz-worthy Downtown boutique hotel since the Standard, and will draw not just tourists, but a wide swath of Angelenos.
Proper Hotel: If all goes according to plan, the second Proper Hotel (following one in San Francisco) will open in the middle of the year. The Kor Group and Stork/Alma Development spent $13.5 million in 2013 to acquire the 1924 Case Hotel. The 13-story structure at 1106 S. Broadway will hold 148 guest rooms, a trio of restaurants and two unique suites — one will boast a basketball court, and the other an indoor pool. The project will also have a fitness center. The Proper continues a wave of revitalization in South Park, and prefigures other projects including the renovation of the historic Herald Examiner building across the street, and another boutique hotel, the Hoxton, which is under construction a block north.
The Aliso: More signs of change in the Arts District will be apparent this year as construction progresses on The Aliso, the massive housing effort from Legendary Development and Fairfield Residential. Framing of the complex at 950 E. Third St. has been completed. Kava Massih Architects is designing the five buildings, which range from five to six stories. The Aliso will hold 472 apartments and a public paseo will run through the space, linking Traction Avenue to Third Street and enhancing pedestrian access in the neighborhood. The Aliso is expected to wrap in late 2018, and its debut will increase the residential base in the Arts District. Expect some students and staff at the nearby SCI-Arc to be among the tenants.
Trust Building: Nelson and Christopher Rising, who breathed new life into the low-slung Financial District office complex Park DTLA, and later transformed the One Bunker Hill edifice into the shiny and restored CalEdison, are at it again. Their Rising Realty Partners, in partnership with Lionstone Investments, is expected to complete a renovation of the former Title Insurance Building by mid-year. The 320,000-square-foot structure at 433 S. Spring St. is being marketed as creative office space. The 11-story, 1928 Art Deco/Zig Zag Moderne property was originally designed by Parkinson and Parkinson. The project both restores a Historic Core treasure, and stands to propel the community forward by being a hub for new businesses and hundreds of workers.
In the Works
6AM: Right now, the gargantuan Arts District development exists merely as a plan and a collection of renderings from starchitect firm Herzog + de Meuron. Will 2018 be the year it takes a few big steps forward? The Department of City Planning is currently reviewing the application for the $2 billion mixed-use complex that would rise at Sixth and Alameda streets, where a few produce warehouses sit. Developer SunCal submitted its application in September 2016 and expects to secure entitlements this summer. That would allow the team to move into honing the final design. The 6AM plan comprises more than 1,300 apartments and 430 condominiums, 500,000 square feet of space for hotel and office uses, 64,000 square feet for retail, 18,000 square feet for a school, and another 18,000 square feet for miscellaneous cultural uses.
Broadway Trade Center: If you’re in the neighborhood of Eighth and Broadway, then it’s impossible to miss the work happening on the gigantic Broadway Trade Center, especially after the construction netting was removed last year. One of the biggest Downtown renovations ever, Broadbridge Capital is turning the former May Company building into a 1.1 million-square-foot mixed-use destination. Along with a two-story food hall, the complex will have a 150-room boutique hotel, two rooftop decks (one open to the public), 400,000 square feet of office space, a private club and retail and restaurants. Broadbridge paid $130 million to acquire the 1908 Beaux Arts structure. Architecture firm Omgivning is handling the redesign, and while much work remains, the façade reveal last year dazzled with a restored, gleaming terra cotta exterior.
Los Angeles Streetcar: The saga of the Downtown streetcar lurches on, and the chances that meaningful construction will start in 2018 seem desperately low. Instead, proponents continue to seek funding for the project with an estimated budget of $274.2 million. So far, the city has only earmarked $65 million for construction from a tax levied on property owners along the proposed 3.8-mile route, which would loop from the Civic Center down Broadway to South Park and back north through the Financial District. Streetcar officials and 14th District City Councilman José Huizar are pushing to expedite the release of $200 million in Metro Measure M money (set aside for the streetcar… but in 2053), as well as looking for private partners. LADOT has also applied for a $100 million grant.
Merritt Building: With the stately columns running along its upper levels, the 1915 Merritt Building is an eye-catching edifice. Unfortunately, the graffiti and general lack of maintenance have also long made it one of Downtown’s most frustrating eyesores. That is finally changing, as Bonnis Properties last year purchased the building at 761 S. Broadway for $24 million and announced plans to turn it into office space. The small floor plates, generally 6,500-7,000 square feet, make it a likely destination for tech and other creative businesses. There will also be approximately 9,200 square feet of retail space on the lower levels. The buffing of the approximately 50,000-square-foot structure will restore some gleam to the neighborhood.
Music Center Plaza Renovation: Navigating the Music Center Plaza will be more difficult this year. That’s because the arts complex in January is initiating a $40 million renovation, the first major overhaul since 1964. The work will involve “flattening” the plaza, a process that includes moving the Jacques Lipchitz sculpture “Peace on Earth” (which contains a water element) closer to Hope Street. Construction is expected to continue through spring 2019, and when complete the plaza capacity will double, from 2,500 to 5,000 people, and the sight lines toward Grand Park and City Hall will be clearer. Additionally, the staircase to Grand Avenue will be widened and flattened, and escalators will be added. The revamped Music Center will have five new dining and drinking options.
Regional Connector: The $1.75 billion project that will speed rail travel across L.A. County won’t finish until 2021, but it will impact Downtowners all year long, probably because of construction closures. The project’s tunnel-boring machine finished a path from Little Tokyo to Bunker Hill last month, and will now aim toward Fourth and Flower streets.
The Grand: On the downside, Bunker Hill could soon lose a parking structure. On the bright side, that “Tinker Toy” complex on First Street between Grand Avenue and Olive Street is ugly, and its shuttering will be a definitive sign that developer Related Cos.’ long-gestating Grand Avenue project is finally ready to go. Project representatives last year said work will commence in 2018, with the aim of a 2022 completion. Frank Gehry is designing the $950 million complex across from Walt Disney Concert Hall that will feature a 450-unit residential tower, a 305-room Equinox hotel, and a retail and restaurant component arranged around a central plaza. The project was first announced before the Great Recession, and Related has spent years lining up financing, including a $290 million investment from Chinese entity CORE. This would be Downtown’s most important groundbreaking of the year.
The Reef: One of Downtown’s biggest proposed projects, The Reef could take some big steps forward in 2018. Planned for two parking lots at 1933 S. Broadway, the project resolved a legal standoff with community activists in 2017, with the developers agreeing to set aside more apartments as low-income housing. With the conflict smoothed out, Reef owners Ara and Avedis Tavitian also dipped their toes into international capital markets, with CBRE representing a listing seeking potential financing partners or a sale. The Reef would bring more than 1,400 apartments and condominiums, a hotel, and 120,000 square feet of retail space to a neighborhood that has seen little development.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2017